Agri-Hub Uganda

Promoting farmer entrepreneurship

 

This 'Ning' is used as a space for the Uganda APF country focus process. We are working towards the workshop you all have shown interest in. Over the coming weeks we will facilitate some discussions about farmer entrepreneurship in Uganda, which will set the stage for the agenda of the APF workshop from 18-20 November.

The first discussion topic is Farmer's organisations in Uganda.
Some observations from the draft synthesis paper (currently being prepared):
'In recent years of economic liberalisation, the cooperative movement was allowed to collapse and with it the confidence of many farmer entrepreneurs in agriculture.
In general, farmer institutions are still characterized by low capacity to effectively perform their roles and to demand for delivery of agricultural advisory/extension services. Many farmer groups have weak institutional framework, systems and procedures for managing their business.’

Key questions to start this discussion:
- What are factors leading to the difficulty of organizing farmers in Uganda?
- How are Agri-ProFocus members and their partners addressing these issues?


We welcome your thoughts on these questions. The discussion about this topic will take until 30th October.

Tags: farmers-organisation, producer-organisation, producerorg

Views: 496

Replies to This Discussion

In my view I think it is important to be specific on the kind of farmer(s) we are talking about. We have commercial farmers, subsistence farmers etc. And the nature of difficulty varies depending on the category farmers fall. Different farmers have got different needs. A commercial farmer will find it very difficult to link up with an upcoming farmer because the two are at a different wave length with different needs. You will find both of them linking up with those with whom they sing the same song there by creating classes in the sector.
The observation of Kisitu Bruce is correct, that there are different types of farmers. However as a forum of developmental organisations (AgriProFocus) it can be assumed that we would approach a taget group from the poverty reduction point of view. Hopefully PELUM participation in the discussion as secretariat of the East and Southern Small Scale African Farmer Forum (ESSSAFF) Uganda Chapter will be able to bring discussion on this subjet further. As for Oxfam we would be interested in (networks of) organisations of Small holder farmers and/or organisations adressing issues of Small holder farmers, specifically in the empovrished North of Uganda.
First of all, the fear of lossing their common assets as a copperative are still strong. Under cooperatives, farmers prices were volatile and controlled by the government. more so these cooperatives were so big and the farmers lacked direct control over them. they were managed by hired staff most of whom run down the cooperatives.

However farmer groups are now forming for common benefits through Naads, Saccos, and other donor funded interventions. These later start looking for other group benefits like marketing in groups i.e ginger farmer groups in toro. Group cohesion becomes strong when they start realising internal benefits like group marketing, sharing farming knowledge and extension services e.t.c. In Nyakasinga Bushenyi district, a farmer group has grown in strength and now has a microfinance bank with over shs2bn in savings. We should note that farmers here have more control on the group's activites and assets than in the case of cooperatives.

At the CICS Secretariat, we are promoting the Cluster formation of the production of particular commodities in particular locations. currently we engage in the Oilseed platform of Uganda, but are directly engaging the citrus industry in the Teso region to form a cluster. we intend to do this is the months of November and December.
This is a very interesting one. let me start with the first one, the factors leading to difficulty in organising farmers in uganda. From my point of view and experience i outline some of them as being:

1. Bad Legacy of the cooperatives that collapsed makes it hard for farmers to trust each other to form a meaningful buiness organisation
2. Lack of clear understanding of farmer organisations as a unique business that offers both private and public services and as such its growth into a fully sustainable entity may need alot of "leveraged capital investimet" rather than pure private investiment. This leaves so many farmer organisations weak and as such not attractive or not giving incentive to other farmers to get organised
3. lack of clear avenues for capitalisation of even the weak started farmer organisations. History shows us that cooperatives where in most cases highly capitalised but they borrowed beyond thier "asset bases" and collapsed under the burden of debt. This hinders farmer organisation growth in terms of business and as such membership recruitment
4.Limited innovations in services and products that exisiting farmer orgnisations offer make it hard to attract new members.
5. High Poverty levels making it hard for some farmers to contribute the membership fees, leave alone investing in their farmer oranisations for better sevice delivery and their benefit.
6. National policy enviroment is silent on Farmer organisations role and government support making most farmer organisations un sustainable and as such not attractive to farmers to form or join exisiting ones.
7. Most exisitng farmer organisations lack resources to attract the best human resource that would grow their membership by organising other farmers
8. "Political interferance" instead of "political interface". Organised farmers inevitably interface with the state or government since it determines their business enviroment. In doing so some politicians, politicise the farmers business thus disenfranchaising some of the members.
9. level of agricultural development and agriculture being predominantely weather based makes it hard for meaningful longterm investiment and thus reduces the need for stronger farmer organisation that can act as lobby and advocay centres for the long term interest
10. Farm sizes, land holdings, farming metholds, gender inequality and lack of farm business succession planning at the household level make it hard to formally integrate many farming households in the agribusiness economy where collective marketing and value addtion would held them earn more and have a good reason for being part of a goup or becoming organised.

From the list above, it is hard to address all those issues at one go and as a single stakeholder. So we are using a multi-stakeholder approach that puts farmers at the centre of developing their businesses along the value chain refered to as the farmer ownership model.
In Uganda unlike in other developed countries majority (above 87%) are subsistance farmers with average land holding between 5 to 10 acres. They enggage in cultivation of various crops at the same time (season). The next group is progressive farmers about 10 percent. While those who are practicing commercial farming are multinationals like Mukwano andd Madavanhi Thses have organized farmers together as outgrowers who benefits from the market provided by them.

Difficult to organnize the farmers because there is no concrete binding forces that give them incentive to come together as in cooperative movemnet period.

In the pass it was easy to bring the farmer together because there were Cooperative Banks that would cater for the subsistance farmers (who are the majority) in terms of providing production loans and ready markets for cash crops like cotton and coffee and primary societies that bind the village farmers as they store and sell their crops at pre-determined price at production.

Encouraging village saving and cridit scheme for the rural farmer groups which groups are to be slowly developed into business clusters then subsequently back to cooperative movements
I addition to the contributions already given, especially by Mr. Mwonge David, I would like to contribute to this discussion by sharing practical experiences through interaction with farmer organisations in Uganda. Challenges to organising farmers results from a number of re-enforcing factors some of which include farmer preceptions of the motives of those trying to get them organised. if farmers percieve that they must organise themselves so that they can be given inputs, funds through SACCOS etc. they whole foundation of the organisation will be shaky. They will be ill prepared to handle the challenges of organisation development. they will be exploited by a few better informed and educated leaders. Issues such as founder syndrom will come in etc. Farmers also generally do not have confidence/trust in the organisations. They complain that there is nobody to oversee and protect their interest/resources from greedy leaders who some how get themselves to the top through undemocratic ways. considering the many demands on Farmer's lives and time, the membership often do not have time to organise themselves and take up arms against the leaders who are mismanaging the organisation. Thus in most cases they silently withdraw. such leaders also aviod organising meetings and general assemblies were they can be questioned. indeed, many times farmers have been cheated after being encouraged to pool resources.

It is only when the institutional and legal framework strongly protects the farmers from exploitation and does not leave them and their miger resources at the mercy of exploitative leaders will they gain confidence to actively participate in and contribute to their organisations.

To address these difficulties, facilitating organisations must work with the entire membership of the farmer organisation, not only a few leaders and commit more resources to farmer mobilisation, participation and empowerment, active involvement of member farmers at the grassroots in decision making and institutional mechanisims that enable farmers have control over their resources and leaders will build confidence.

In addition to this, the farmers need a well organised agricultural chain in which the chain leaders are honest and the market forces are fair enough not to fail to reward the farmer's efforts. Farming in Uganda with minimal technology is tideous and if not rewarded with good profits and more certain prices becomes discouraging even to the organised farmers, they resort to producing food only.
Let me summarize the points made so far. We had nice contributions on this topic from Kisitu Bruce, Thur de Kuijer, Mark Amumpairu, David Muwonge, Ray Bruno Agong and Adokorach Rose.

In as much as we need to acknowledge the differences between types of farmers (commercial / subsistence) and their needs this forum addresses the issues with poverty reduction in mind, hence focuses mostly on small scale farmers and those that represent their voices.

There seems to be a big difference between the current scenario on farmers organizations and the cooperatives from the past.

In the past cooperatives could work in a guided market system with government interventions that lowered risks due to organized access to credit (cooperative banks), markets (storage) for some cash crops. However, in this system the cooperatives were large and not under direct control of farmers, but run by hired staff. Moreover, these cooperatives collapsed - many were over capitalized with too high debts for their asset base.

Current farmer groups rely much more on group cohesion and work towards internal benefits (access to input, credit, extension etc), however, the fear of losing common assets is strong.

Why it is difficult to get farmers working together well? Several reasons were mentioned:
- Psychological: bad legacy of collapsed cooperatives
- Lack of understanding of the farmer organization as a unique business offering both private and public services.
- Level of agricultural development (low production) and type of production systems (weather based) unattractive to long-term investments, thus limiting scope for strong farmer organisations
- Limited avenues for capitalization, limited innovations of services and products in farmer organisations, thus unattractive to new members, lacking best human capital
- Government policies quiet about farmers organisatios, not encouraging farmers to join hands, rather “political interference” instead of "political interface".
- Difficult to formally integrate small farmers in the agribusiness economy due poverty at farm level (unable to pay fees), farm sizes, land holdings, farming metholds, gender inequality and lack of farm business succession planning
- Shaky foundation of some farmer organizations due to bad start (e.g. founded only to get access to credit, no social cohesion), founder syndrome, undemocratic organization of the farm groups, with lack of voice and influence of membership

To curb some of these issues, several pointers were made. A multi-stakeholder approach needed along the value chain (with a ‘farmer ownership model’), leading to a well organized value chain that rewards farmers with favorable prices. Farmers organizations need strong institutional and legal frameworks that empower the organisation’s membership base and give farmers control over their resources and leaders. Interventions of Agri-ProFocus members and partners should not focus on leaders of farmers organizations only, but also their membership base.

Let's continue the forum discussion on this topic with some new questions that I will post today.

Thanks,
Jouwert
Attachments:
I am doing a study on the challenges of monitoring and evaluation in the naads program in Uganda and some issues coming up are that farmers join groups with different expectations and interests. Some join the groups to get money and when it doesn't materialise they jump out of the group. When a member of a group gets say inputs, other members of the group never follow-up and they not perceive it as an achievement to the group. And yet the members are responsible for monitoring and reporting back on what is transpiring. Members sit back and wait for their turn. Every group member is the one who wants to benefit first and instead of helping one another they find fault. It therefore means that there's need to organize farmer groups with a common interest (enterprise) and goal, and also try to work on group cohesion.

Jouwert van Geene said:
Let me summarize the points made so far. We had nice contributions on this topic from Kisitu Bruce, Thur de Kuijer, Mark Amumpairu, David Muwonge, Ray Bruno Agong and Adokorach Rose.

In as much as we need to acknowledge the differences between types of farmers (commercial / subsistence) and their needs this forum addresses the issues with poverty reduction in mind, hence focuses mostly on small scale farmers and those that represent their voices.

There seems to be a big difference between the current scenario on farmers organizations and the cooperatives from the past.

In the past cooperatives could work in a guided market system with government interventions that lowered risks due to organized access to credit (cooperative banks), markets (storage) for some cash crops. However, in this system the cooperatives were large and not under direct control of farmers, but run by hired staff. Moreover, these cooperatives collapsed - many were over capitalized with too high debts for their asset base.

Current farmer groups rely much more on group cohesion and work towards internal benefits (access to input, credit, extension etc), however, the fear of losing common assets is strong.

Why it is difficult to get farmers working together well? Several reasons were mentioned:
- Psychological: bad legacy of collapsed cooperatives
- Lack of understanding of the farmer organization as a unique business offering both private and public services.
- Level of agricultural development (low production) and type of production systems (weather based) unattractive to long-term investments, thus limiting scope for strong farmer organisations
- Limited avenues for capitalization, limited innovations of services and products in farmer organisations, thus unattractive to new members, lacking best human capital
- Government policies quiet about farmers organisatios, not encouraging farmers to join hands, rather “political interference” instead of "political interface".
- Difficult to formally integrate small farmers in the agribusiness economy due poverty at farm level (unable to pay fees), farm sizes, land holdings, farming metholds, gender inequality and lack of farm business succession planning
- Shaky foundation of some farmer organizations due to bad start (e.g. founded only to get access to credit, no social cohesion), founder syndrome, undemocratic organization of the farm groups, with lack of voice and influence of membership

To curb some of these issues, several pointers were made. A multi-stakeholder approach needed along the value chain (with a ‘farmer ownership model’), leading to a well organized value chain that rewards farmers with favorable prices. Farmers organizations need strong institutional and legal frameworks that empower the organisation’s membership base and give farmers control over their resources and leaders. Interventions of Agri-ProFocus members and partners should not focus on leaders of farmers organizations only, but also their membership base.

Let's continue the forum discussion on this topic with some new questions that I will post today.

Thanks,
Jouwert
PELUM Uganda, which hosts the East and Southern Africa Small scale Farmers Forum (Uganda chapter) also faces various challenges as have been mentioned as well as the following 1. Lack of clear focus of the farmer groups. They grow different types of crops and keep different types of animals and therefore may not have much in common in terms of what they produce
2. Some farmers are interested in quick gains and therefore are not ready to organize themselves for long term purposes.
3. Political interference and affiliations that divide the farmers
4. Farmers are located far apart from each other in some areas so meeting is not easy.
5. Lack of capacity in group formation and group dynamics.
6. Poor management skills for example the poor leadership among the farmers themselves.
7. Gender related hardships for example marginalization of women participation yet they are the biggest part of the community.
8. Bad experience with previous organisations e.g. cooperatives.
9. Low literacy levels

However, ESAFF has got some success in bringing together smallholder farmers in Uganda and providing a platform for smalholder farmers to speak for themselves our on issues affecting them/ marginalizing them

Kisitu Bruce said:
I am doing a study on the challenges of monitoring and evaluation in the naads program in Uganda and some issues coming up are that farmers join groups with different expectations and interests. Some join the groups to get money and when it doesn't materialise they jump out of the group. When a member of a group gets say inputs, other members of the group never follow-up and they not perceive it as an achievement to the group. And yet the members are responsible for monitoring and reporting back on what is transpiring. Members sit back and wait for their turn. Every group member is the one who wants to benefit first and instead of helping one another they find fault. It therefore means that there's need to organize farmer groups with a common interest (enterprise) and goal, and also try to work on group cohesion.

Jouwert van Geene said:
Let me summarize the points made so far. We had nice contributions on this topic from Kisitu Bruce, Thur de Kuijer, Mark Amumpairu, David Muwonge, Ray Bruno Agong and Adokorach Rose.

In as much as we need to acknowledge the differences between types of farmers (commercial / subsistence) and their needs this forum addresses the issues with poverty reduction in mind, hence focuses mostly on small scale farmers and those that represent their voices.

There seems to be a big difference between the current scenario on farmers organizations and the cooperatives from the past.

In the past cooperatives could work in a guided market system with government interventions that lowered risks due to organized access to credit (cooperative banks), markets (storage) for some cash crops. However, in this system the cooperatives were large and not under direct control of farmers, but run by hired staff. Moreover, these cooperatives collapsed - many were over capitalized with too high debts for their asset base.

Current farmer groups rely much more on group cohesion and work towards internal benefits (access to input, credit, extension etc), however, the fear of losing common assets is strong.

Why it is difficult to get farmers working together well? Several reasons were mentioned:
- Psychological: bad legacy of collapsed cooperatives
- Lack of understanding of the farmer organization as a unique business offering both private and public services.
- Level of agricultural development (low production) and type of production systems (weather based) unattractive to long-term investments, thus limiting scope for strong farmer organisations
- Limited avenues for capitalization, limited innovations of services and products in farmer organisations, thus unattractive to new members, lacking best human capital
- Government policies quiet about farmers organisatios, not encouraging farmers to join hands, rather “political interference” instead of "political interface".
- Difficult to formally integrate small farmers in the agribusiness economy due poverty at farm level (unable to pay fees), farm sizes, land holdings, farming metholds, gender inequality and lack of farm business succession planning
- Shaky foundation of some farmer organizations due to bad start (e.g. founded only to get access to credit, no social cohesion), founder syndrome, undemocratic organization of the farm groups, with lack of voice and influence of membership

To curb some of these issues, several pointers were made. A multi-stakeholder approach needed along the value chain (with a ‘farmer ownership model’), leading to a well organized value chain that rewards farmers with favorable prices. Farmers organizations need strong institutional and legal frameworks that empower the organisation’s membership base and give farmers control over their resources and leaders. Interventions of Agri-ProFocus members and partners should not focus on leaders of farmers organizations only, but also their membership base.

Let's continue the forum discussion on this topic with some new questions that I will post today.

Thanks,
Jouwert
Farmers organizations, we need to go back to the reasons why the farmers organisations are set up. Many times ( especially for the small producers organisations) are called upon by NGOs, CSO , government agencies who are motivated by numbers. Programs and Projects that call for number of people participating in a training or project without looking at individual growth of the farmers. farmers attend different groups of meetings and belong to different agency program hoping to profit one day from one of the programmes. the culture of give sitting allowances has accelerated the habit of multiple memberships to groups . Farmers organisations can not grow if the members have divided interested.

Secondly, we need to remember that some of the development organisations have not learnt the issues facing the groups. These groups are formed with the aim of developing a channel for provision of development services. If the organisation was driven by individual growth and profitability then, it is more like to become sustainable. It important that we move from setting up groups for purposes of out reach . Instant let them evolve as result of a foreseen vision for growth. Support to the groups should facilitate its realization of its goals not the facilitators objectives. We development need to focus on the individual growth from poverty , one by one until we are done.
Hi All,

Thanks for the great contributions on this topic. Let me again try to summarize all the views so far, before we move to a next topic on the forum.

There seems to be a big difference between the current scenario on farmers organizations and the cooperatives from the past.

In the past cooperatives could work in a guided market system with government interventions that lowered risks due to organized access to credit (cooperative banks), markets (storage) for some cash crops. However, in this system the cooperatives were large and not under direct control of farmers, but run by hired staff. Moreover, these cooperatives collapsed - many were over capitalized with too high debts for their asset base.

Current farmer groups rely much more on group cohesion and work towards internal benefits (access to input, credit, extension etc), however, the fear of losing common assets is strong.

Why it is difficult to get farmers working together well? Several reasons were mentioned:
- Psychological: bad legacy of collapsed cooperatives.
- Lack of understanding of the farmer organization as a unique business offering both private and public services. Lack of focus in a group (e.g. growing many crops) and long term purpose.
- Level of agricultural development (low production) and type of production systems (weather based) unattractive to long-term investments, thus limiting scope for strong farmer organizations.
- Limited avenues for capitalization, limited innovations of services and products in farmer organisations, thus unattractive to new members, lacking best human capital.
- Government policies quiet about farmers organisatios, not encouraging farmers to join hands. Rather “political interference” instead of "political interface".
- Difficult to formally integrate small farmers in the agribusiness economy due poverty at farm level (unable to pay fees), farm sizes, land holdings, farming methods, gender inequality and lack of farm business succession planning.
- Shaky foundation of some farmer organizations due to bad start (e.g. founded for quick gains, sitting allowances, only to get individual access to credit, no social cohesion), founder syndrome, poor leadership, undemocratic organization of the farm groups, with lack of voice and influence of membership, bad gender balance. Practical problems, such as long distances between farmers in a group, low literacy levels.

To curb some of these issues, several pointers were made.
- A multi-stakeholder approach needed along the value chain (with a ‘farmer ownership model’), leading to a well organized value chain that rewards farmers with favorable prices.
- Farmers organizations need strong institutional and legal frameworks that empower the organisation’s membership base and give farmers control over their resources and leaders. Only farmer groups with a common interest (enterprise), group cohesion and common goal have a chance to survive. Hence, capacity development of farmer organizations is needed.
- Interventions of Agri-ProFocus members and partners should not focus on leaders of farmers organizations only, but also their membership base.
- As NGOs, our projects (material benefits, sitting allowances) should not be the reason for farmers to get organized, since this is not sustainable. Hence, we should go for farmers (organizations) that aim for individual growth and profitability of farmers and not just at number of farmers showing up at meetings or for NGO outreach.

The question remains: what are the concrete opportunities for Agri-profocus members and partners to work on this issue? This will be one of the topics for discussion at the workhop in November.

Thanks!
Jouwert

What are the practical challenges encountered while facilitating/working with farmer groups?

The challenges include but are not limited to the following;

 

v  Mobilizing farmers of different beliefs to come together with common objectives. This requires a lot of sensitization, exposure and patience.

v  One will always encounter and will have to deal with a lot of issue of mistrust and conflict amongst members of the same group leading to group divisions

v  It has always been difficult to secure genuine commitment of group members to group activity with the result that a small but quick paying inconvenience can easily capture members’ attention away from the group. The group needs to have some dedicated people to lead and encourage the others.

v  The need for quick gains has made most group members impatient and to divide their efforts.

v  The issue of group dynamics needs to be addressed continuously whether the group is young or old.

v  Political interference: when politicians come across a very organized group of farmers, they always want to use them politically and end up dividing them to the extent of killing the objectives of the group and the group itself.

v  The challenge of illiteracy has also had colossal hindrances to the functioning of groups in many ways including failure to keep up to date records, failure to comprehend group documents by some group members e.t.c. with the result that some members who are more literate want to dominate the group and take advantage of others – Elite capture. 

v  Expectancy syndrome: some farmers come together expecting that the facilitating organization will give some hand outs/some material benefits from donors and if this is not cleared right from the outset, the group will die immediately when their expectations are not met.

v  Maturity period; Groups take several years to mature and become self reliant with the result that many organizations withdraw before the groups can really support themselves with the result that they die or at best come up together whenever there is a new similar organization with some benefits. The groups may as well become political platforms for mobilizing votes and earning quick gains “Okulembeka”.

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